We live in a culture where punishment (sadly) is still the mainstay of behavior correction. Alfred Adler recognized that children’s misbehavior stemmed from their feelings of discouragement. He pointed out that we can bring about immediate change in children’s behavior when we encourage them instead, helping to alleviate their feelings of discouragement.
Learning to be encouraging is a key parenting skill. Look at one culture’s approach to correction through encouragement:
“In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly
or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and
unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the
village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then
each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each
recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has
done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be
recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive
attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully
and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At
the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place,
and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the
Even if you cannot stage this extensive a ritual, you can reinforce and encourage forgiveness by reminding the person who has committed a wrong of their positive qualities and contributions.
Imagine if a child acting out in class was not banished to the hall or the principal’s office, but rather was placed in the center of their classroom to receive this same experience? It would be amazingly curative.
The next time your child is misbehaving, remember their behaviors are manifesting symptoms of discouragement, and encouragement is the cure!